Starting out 2011 this week is a great time to make sure you have a process/system in place to make every lead/inquiry count! Those leads are GOLD and how you manage them this year will significantly impact how well you do. Recent statistics report it takes 11-15 “touches” to get a sale. Don’t let a good prospect lose momentum and slip through the cracks because they didn’t get the attention from you to turn them into a satisfied customer!
This is a bit longer TIPS than others in the past, but it’s an important process for anyone who can’t answer YES to all 4 questions in Step 1.
- KNOW your numbers! This is critical. If you can’t answer these following 4 questions about your 2010 inquiries/leads then continue reading to implement steps 2-11.
- How many NEW inquiries did you receive in 2010?
- Do know what source they were from and can you determine your most optimal source based on those numbers?
- Did you follow-up proactively and consistently with every prospect (inquiries and networking connections) until they were either a Sale or a NO?
- Did you stay in touch with all the “thinking about it” or “not ready yet” ‘great to meet you” inquiries or networking prospects with professional, timely and relevant, targeted messages throughout the year?
If you can’t answer “YES” to these 4 questions, then the following 10 steps will be invaluable in building your 2011 business.
- Implement a database applicationthat allows you to record key targeting data about prospects when they first call you or when you meet them at a networking function and then track them from initial contact through to SALE! Create targeting segmentation flags (for example age, industry type, location, number of employees, income level, age of neighborhood, etc. – the segmentations are limitless!) when you input them into that database so you can group them for subsequent email or calling campaigns about a specific product or service. This robust database application should also allow you to:
- record notes about conversations with them or their unique profile information
- schedule a variety of the following activities in Steps 3-11
- send “blast emails” and implement drip email marketing
- record what actions were done to each prospect so you know where they stand in the sales process pipeline or the customer service/resolution pipeline.
As you grow your business Outlook and/or Excel are probably not as versatile applications for this prospect/customer database management as Goldmine, ACT!, SalesForce.com or others on the market. I use ACT! and love it.
- Record EVERY inbound inquiry the day you receive it – and what you are doing with that prospect regarding sending information, preparing a quote or scheduling a meeting. If you have multiple staff answering the phone, make sure they either a) have access to enter inquiries into the database or b) fill out a paper “lead form” that you, an admin or they can enter the data by the end of that day! Also input EVERY new prospect YOU meet at networking events within 24 hours…otherwise, you’ll get behind and not be able to implement Steps 4-11. Another question for you…do you have that rubber banded pile of business cards by your PC? (Be honest, I KNOW some of you do! J) If you complete your data entry task every day for 15 minutes, it won’t back up – and valuable new connections won’t fall through the cracks! Make it a New Year’s resolution!
- Create customized, targeted follow-up email templates to the prospects you meet at networking events and store them so your post-meeting activity can be timely within 24 hours:
SAMPLE TEMPLATE NETWORKING CONNECTION
“It was so nice to meet you at ___________ today/yesterday.
I am very interested in (what you do/what you sell/what you need/the services you provide.)
You mentioned you are (frustrated/concerned/uneasy/challenged/disappointed) with ___________ and I would be happy to help you in that area.
Please call me at (phone number) ________________ so we can schedule a meeting for a (no obligation) discussion to learn more about your (business needs/home improvement needs/_______ needs) and identify the solutions I have that might be beneficial for you. (I have also attached information about our initial conversation topic.) Thanks and I look forward to hearing from you, or I’ll give you a call next ________. Have a great day.”
If you have done a good job of jotting 1 or 2 of their key concerns/challenges on the back of their card when you met them (SEE PRIOR TIPS ON NETWORKING), you’ll be able to reference something important to them in your email.
If you didn’t get a few needs from them in that networking conversation substitute this sentence “I find that many people in your industry/situation/field/business are (frustrated/concerned/uneasy/challenged/disappointed) with ___________ and I would be happy to help you in that area.” Avoid making the email text about you and what you do…focus on them and what they might need based on your conversation at the networking event to encourage an action step reaction from them. If they pick up the phone and call you from this email…that’s a buying signal!
Code this email EM1 and put EM1 in the contact history of your database record for this prospect so you’ll know what was sent. Also schedule your first follow-up call and your 2nd follow-up call in your database task calendar. Don’t leave out the sentence that you will call them on a specific date if you don’t hear back from them. Set the expectation that you are committed to reaching them for this follow-up conversation.
- After sending the first email, schedule and make the first call to follow-up 24-48 hours later. Don’t miss/skip this first call! More than likely, you’ll get Voice Mail. IF they are not available, leave the exact same voice message as your EM1, and code it VM1 so you know which one you left. If you sent an attachment with your EM1, you can reference that “I also sent you an email and attached information about ____________ which I think you will find very informative/which is in line with our initial conversation topic." If/When the person answers their phone, start your call with the first 3 sentences of your email/voice mail text, and then ASK A QUESTION about the person, their business, their NEEDS. Don’t jump in to ask right away for the appointment or TELL what you can do or want to do for the prospect. Engage them in a dialogue! (SEE PRIOR TIPS ON ASKING THE RIGHT QUESTIONS),
Avoid the tired and worn voice message or live opening of “I’m going to be in the area and wanted to stop by for a few minutes (with my boss) to…” Who cares that YOU are in their area???
- Send EM2 2- 3 days later if you haven’t received a call back.
“I hope you are having a great week. I know how busy you must be, but I don’t want to drop the ball in helping you with _____________ (which you mentioned when we met was a concern for you/of interest to you.) I could meet with you for a brief/no obligation discussion on ______at ____or ________ at____ or simply call me at my office/mobile ____________so we can arrange a time that fits into YOUR busy calendar. Thanks and I look forward to hearing from you. I’ll follow-up with you on ______ if I haven’t heard back from you. Have a nice day.”
- Schedule the next call for 48 hours later. Leave the same message as above and code it VM2
- One week later, begin the series of EM3, VM3 selecting different days and times for your calls than the prior week. If you made your calls last week Monday afternoon and Wednesday morning, this week start on Tuesday afternoon and go to Thursday morning. Maybe they have a regularly scheduled meeting you don’t know about, so varying your calling times will make it easier to catch them at their desk. Your “script” for EM3 or VM3 should include a reference again to their initial needs/pain words that you uncovered from them during your initial meeting OR a general…“many of my very satisfied customers were initially extremely unhappy/uneasy/frustrated/disappointed/overwhelmed/concerned/ with ________________. If you have experienced the same concerns/problems, please call me at __________________ so we can discuss/review/evaluate solutions I can provide to /correct that/eliminate that/reduce that/improve that problem.”
- At this point you have made 6 touches and have not heard from them. Your next email (EM4) should send them something of value to their needs/your service regarding those needs. For example, a prior newsletter you may have sent to your database contacts that covered the topic they care about or would/should care about or a link to an article you read with the note “based on our conversation at the (networking/chamber event/rotary event)_____________ I thought this would interest you”
- Follow-up 48 hours later with VM4 referencing the information sent earlier in the week.
- You are now up to 8 touches within 2-3 weeks of meeting them. Now put them into a regular monthly or semimonthly cycle “drip marketing” schedule to receive TIPS from you or a newsletter from you…something to stay in front of them so that when they DO need your type of service or product…they will think of YOU! These regular TIPS will be your additional touches that you can set up in a drip marketing campaign…AND you can also recycle EM1/VM1 – EM4/VM4 in 30, 60 or 90 days depending how important a prospect they could be for you…but still send your regular TIPS. I’m now in conversation with someone I met at a trade show 4 years ago…who has received my TIPS all these years and emailed me in October asking for a proposal to train 30 employees!!! This process does work!!!
The goal for all this activity is that at the end of 2011, you’ll be able to:
- answer those questions I asked you in #1
- know all your new inquiries or networking prospects for the year
- know who purchased your product or service from those inquires and networking activities so that you can stay in touch with them for more/other services AND
- you’ll be confident that those prospects that didn’t buy immediately were contacted during the year with regular, professional messages.
Some of those who didn’t say YES the very first conversation will absolutely say YES along the way if you stay top-of-mind and provide value in your communications! This works whether you are discussing your specific consulting or business services (accounting, estate planning, financial planning, temp employment, sales training, payroll services, merchant banking, marketing, website design, IT support and more)…or discussing a quote for an actual service delivery (a new roof, a new heating and cooling system, redoing a bathroom, painting a house, a new landscape design) and then received a “we’ll think about it” response!
Prospects don’t buy right away anymore…the economy has caused them to be more discretionary in their spending AND they have many choices available to them. Your goal is to show them YOU are interested in them, interested in THEIR problems and won’t just disappear after the first contact but are committed to helping them. If you stay in front of them with these proactive steps, they will either act on one of your “touches”, or think of you WHEN they need you!
Have a very happy, healthy and profitable 2011! On your marks…get set…GO!